Privacy SOS

This is what stop and frisk looks like

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In 2012, the New York Civil Liberties Union released a report showing that the NYPD has stopped and frisked millions of innocent New Yorkers since 2002, the vast majority of them black and Latino. Watch the above video to see what happened during a stop and frisk in Sunset Park during June 2012.

The NYPD has come under sustained criticism in wake of the NYCLU report because of its explosive findings, among them that the police made more stop and frisks of black men last year than there are black men in the city. In the first three months of 2012 alone, officers stopped, questioned and patted people down 203,500 times. Among those stops,

  • 181,457 were totally innocent (89 percent).
  • 108,097 were black (54 percent).
  • 69,043 were Latino (33 percent).
  • 18,387 were white (9 percent).

Even these devastating numbers are skewed, however, because of a New York law that criminalizes public display of any amount of marijuana, no matter how small. Just last year 50,000 New Yorkers were arrested for publicly displaying the drug — 9 in 10 of those arrests were in New York City. When officers stop and frisk people they demand that the targets empty their pockets. The moment a bag of weed is produced in "public view", the frisked person has committed a crime and is arrested. 

Therefore even though 11 percent of people stopped and frisked in the first three months of 2012 were found to be guilty of some crime, many of them were likely caught in the NYPD's stop and frisk, "public display of marijuana" vice. 

Even in the wake of the damning NYCLU report and an embarrassing press storm, Mayor Ed Lee is currently considering bringing stop and frisk to San Francisco. The ACLU of Northern California and other advocacy groups are opposing the move, arguing that African American San Franciscans already suffer higher arrest rates than black Californians anywhere else statewide, and that the move would inevitably make the disparity worse.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.